What I learned from Always about becoming a successful purpose brand
by Maria Muravina
Reading time: 4 minutes
‘Purpose’ has been gaining traction in marketing and communication for more than a decade. Purposeful brands are pursuing a cause that extends beyond their immediate financial goals. Even in my university years, I felt personally empowered by the Always first generation ‘like a girl’ campaign. In the last two years, I had the opportunity to work closely together with the Always Social Impact team. I have been proud of the results and gained 3 practical lessons on successful purpose campaigning in practice.
Lesson 1: Purpose should be uncompromising
In the age of greenwashing, nothing stinks more than a brand inauthentically trying to jump on a trend (think of the Pepsi-Jenner disaster). Always is a perfect example of a sincere dedication to a cause, that also happens to be a great match to their products – eradicating the stigma against menstruation.
On one hand, it fits perfectly from the strategic point of view – how can people discuss the product, if they are too ashamed to talk about the subject matter altogether? But what is also so striking after having worked with the Social impact team of Always – not a single time was the increase of sales as a goal mentioned in our lengthy discussions. No, instead, the entirety of the focus was on how to cause the biggest societal shift of alleviating menstrual shame.
This type of authenticity, which happens both behind closed doors and is supported consistently across the board via campaigns, advocacy and aid, is what makes the purpose ring so true. Because it is true.
Lesson 2: Understand the context
Know what you’re dealing with. Build insights to help open people’s eyes to the severity of the issue, but also to give context of what you are dealing with, examining the landscape of the debate, and which groups to keep in mind.
Here are some examples of what we looked at in the case of Always in the UK:
- The effect of the current state of affairs:
- Over 2 in 3 young women (18-26yrs) have felt ashamed about their periods, 3 in 4 have tried to hide from others that they had a period;
- how talking openly about periods helps girls to feel more confident, etc.
- Putting things into perspective:
- the UK is the least supportive out of the 13 European countries surveyed when it comes to talking openly about periods;
- people feel more comfortable talking openly about politics, family problems and sex than they do talking about periods.
Lesson 3: No change within an echo chamber
The goal of changing the societal attitudes towards menstruation meant that the strategy should go far beyond banging your own drum and addressing people who are agreeing with the message. This means that we need to activate advocates of the issue, but also, and this is very important, change the minds of those who do not agree with us and can have the biggest impact on alleviating the issue.
Convincing audiences that disagree with you involves using your empathy muscle to the max. To change someone’s mind, shaming their stance is much less effective than trying to understand them and speak with their values-set in mind.
Why look at values at all? Psychological research shows that people make decisions with their values first, and then start looking for arguments that support these decisions. It is of paramount importance that you consider which values your messaging is based on.
In terms of finding the groups that can cause a societal shift, we need to consider short term and long term strategy. In the short term we can only aim to change attitudes by understanding people’s values, but in the short term we cannot change the values themselves. In the long term we can also aim to shift values in the future generations, if we sow the seeds now (because as we know from psychological research, the profound values shift happens on the generational level, and the most flexible age for these shifts is right before adulthood, as your personality and basic values more or less crystalize by the time you reach it). On top of that, the younger you are, the more likely you are to experience menstrual shame. By focusing on the groups that have the highest impact on younger people, we can bring down the menstrual shame.
So how do you do it? For Always, we took a deeper look at people in UK society who were not willing or hesitating to talk more openly about menstruation. One group that stood out in our Glocalities data were ‘Unconvinced mothers’. They are often more traditional, more nervous about big societal changes, and focused on the learning and health of their kids. This means that you should not present open period conversations with their children as too progressive. Instead, you should the conversation about menstruation by focusing on how mothers have been passing on their knowledge for centuries. You should highlight the positive health impacts – open conversations can help the child understand their cycle better and feel comfortable seeking help, etc.
Always success in purpose
All of the above highlights why Always is such a successful purpose brand. To recap:
- Find a purpose that is a good match for your brand and go for it only if you wholeheartedly believe in it and will support it in a multitude of ways. Having sustainable policies at this point is a hygiene factor, you just have to do it. But to what extent you can become a successful purpose brand, with campaigns and actions behind it, needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
- Understand the social issue in-depth with data. What is the societal landscape right now, what do different groups think about it, and how do you see your role in it.
- Use empathy. We trust that your heart is in the right place, you want to make the world better. But don’t assume that people that disagree with you have their hearts in the wrong place. Instead, first try to understand where they’re coming from and communicate with them from the values they hold dear.
Here you can find the Always “It’s Time to Talk” report that features findings & input from Glocalities, as well as other partners, on the state of menstrual stigma in the UK and communication guidelines.
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